It Pays to Be on Time

Updated insider information by Chellie Campbell, author of “The Wealthy Spirit: Daily Affirmations for Financial Stress Reduction”

87-March 28

“The trouble with being punctual is there’s no one there to appreciate it.”—Franklin P. Jones

When I attended a financial workshop years ago, we played a game called “It pays to be on time.” We were charged a dollar a minute for every minute we were late to class, to a maximum of ten dollars. You should have heard the arguments that went on each class about paying those fines! A veritable cornucopia of “Yeah, buts.”

“Yeah, but there was an accident on the freeway,” “Yeah, but my car broke down,” “Yeah, but my biggest client called with a problem and I had to help him,” etc. The workshop cost eight hundred dollars, yet here we were spending the first fifteen-twenty minutes of each class arguing whether or not someone owed their fine of two dollars!

There was an important lesson in this exercise. When you’re late, you’re late. Just own your responsibility that you made a choice that resulted in your being late. Whether it was to leave for the meeting with no leeway for traffic problems, to choose to pick up the ringing telephone when you were on your way out, or not having your car properly serviced so breakdowns don’t occur—these are all choices that are your responsibility. If your ship sails and you’re not on it, the reasons why you missed it won’t put you on it.

One evening during this workshop, I wasn’t feeling well and it was raining, so I made the choice not to go to class. The next week, as they read off the names of people who owed fines for being late, they ended with, “and Chellie Campbell, ten dollars.”

Surprised, I said, “I wasn’t late tonight!” and was told, “This is for last week when you didn’t show up.”

Hand on my hip, defensive attitude ready, I said, “Yeah, but I was sick!”

And before I got the word “sick” out of my mouth, I had a revelation. I often used getting sick as an excuse to cancel things when I had over-committed myself. Sometimes when I looked at my crowded calendar, I would plan in advance to call in sick to something. Then, by the power of suggestion, I would really get sick. This was a habit that needed to be broken!

I understood this lesson so powerfully in that moment that I paid the fine immediately with no further discussion. It was a cheap price to pay for a very significant life lesson.

Today’s Affirmation: “Time is my friend and I am always on time.”

Isn’t it funny how the Late People are always late nearly exactly the same amount of time? I remember one of my mother’s friends was always one hour late. For everything. She would arrive flustered and hurried and very apologetic. But you could set your watch by the exactly one hour she would be late! So of course, my mom started telling her things started an hour earlier so that they would be on time…

I err on the other side of the spectrum. I’m habitually early for everything. I know it’s partly because I don’t want to miss anything, but more than that, it’s my theater training. The curtain goes up at 8:00, the audience is in their seats and waiting and they’ve paid for their tickets and expect the show to start on time. All the actors have to be ready, in costume and makeup, and start the show.

I’ll never forget when I was performing in a production of “Little Mary Sunshine” at the Megaw Theater in Northridge. The director was Elaine Moe, and she was fabulously talented. And a strict taskmistress. She expected everyone to be promptly on time for every rehearsal. She gave us the rules in the beginning:

“You will be on time for every rehearsal. If you aren’t here on time, everyone in the cast will sit and do nothing but wait for you to arrive. When you do, you will go onstage and make a formal apology to everyone in the theater whose time you wasted.”

Brrrrr! I’m telling you, one person was late early on, and the rest of us sat and waited for her to arrive. When she did and saw everyone just sitting and staring at her, she gulped and turned white. She nervously made her stuttering apology, as Elaine and the rest of us stared at her.

I don’t remember anyone ever being late again.

I was so religiously on time that people always expected it of me. Once I was meeting my mother, my aunt Woodie, and my sisters for lunch at the Beverly Wilshire tea room, and somehow I ran late (traffic? I don’t remember). But I remember the looks of relief from all my family members when I rushed in 15 minutes after the appointed hour (this was in the Dark Ages BC – Before Cell phones).

“Oh, thank God you’re here,” my mother breathed with a deep sigh of relief. “We were sure something terrible had happened to you because you’re never late!”

Hee. Can people set their time by you?